Saturday, October 31, 2020

Review of "Great Quarterbacks #2: Kilmer, Hadl, Bradshaw, Phipps," by Bill Gutman

 Review of

Great Quarterbacks #2: Kilmer, Hadl, Bradshaw, Phipps, by Bill Gutman ISBN 044807429X

Three out of five stars

Choice of subjects is questionable

This book was published in 1974, when there were some all-time great quarterbacks still active. Fran Tarkenton, Bob Griese, Len Dawson and Joe Namath were all active at the time and are now in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. While Bradshaw made it into the Hall of Fame, the other three in this book did not.

 At the time of publication, Bradshaw had only been a starting quarterback for four years and his lifetime completion percentage was 0.484. Phipps had been a starter for only two complete seasons and his completion percentage was 0.470. Furthermore, Bradshaw had thrown for 41 touchdowns with 73 interceptions while Phipps had thrown 24 touchdown passes and had 45 intercepted. These are hardly the stats of great quarterbacks.

While the writing is good, the subject matter is questionable. At the time, these were not elite NFL quarterbacks, belying the phrase “Great Quarterbacks” in the title.

Review of "Lazarus Risen, issue 2," comic by Greg Rucka et. al.

 Review of

Lazarus Risen, issue 2, comic by Greg Rucka et. al.

Five out of five stars

 I spotted this comic in a used bookstore and it looked interesting, so I bought it. It remained interesting throughout the read, even though it was difficult to understand due to no context being established in the images. The reader is dropped right into a three-way battle where the heroine is going against two allied protagonists.

 Fortunately, there is a page of text at the beginning that explains some of the situation. It is a dystopia, where the world is ruled by a few very powerful families. Their power is based on economic control of nearly all the world. Almost seventy years ago the families made an agreement as to how the world would be parceled and governed. Each family names a champion that has great powers to do battle and recover from severe wounds. That champion is known as a Lazarus.  

 While war is still the killing grounds that it has always been, there are now strange protocols, for even within the domain of a family there are other families that will not hesitate to attempt to usurp the leaders. In many ways it is similar to the days of royal houses, where loyalty to the ruling house is based more on the perception of power that can be lost at any time.

 The opening action is brutal and bloody, but after that it shifts to being more in the area of intrigue and maneuver than a physical battle. The reader learns that even though there are agreements in place between families, there is a lot of room to maneuver, even before the rules are bent.

 This is a dark dystopia with a heroine capable of whipping all comers. Yet, despite her fighting ability, in many ways she is a mere tool to be used in a deadly game of great political and economic power.

Friday, October 30, 2020

Review of "Star Trek the Early Voyages: The Battle On Rigel," number 3 in the series

 Review of

Star Trek the Early Voyages: The Battle On Rigel, number 3 in the series

Five out of five stars

 The crew of the pilot must battle to survive

 This story features the crew of the original Star Trek pilot, “The Cage,” where the Enterprise is lured to a planet where the remaining inhabitants have great mental powers of illusion, but little real capability to do anything else. The “Early Voyages” sequence of comic stories describes the adventures of the Enterprise under Captain Christopher Pike, with Number one as First Officer and Spock as another bridge officer.

 In this case, the Enterprise is on Rigel VII, supposedly to initiate deep contacts between the planet and the Federation, where Rigel VII will join the Federation. The society on Rigel VII was recently very warlike with the large and powerful Kaylar specifically bred to be the elite warrior class. When the story opens, the Kaylar are conducting the Festival of Light, which honors their code of battle.

 At first, things seem normal when suddenly, the Enterprise crewmembers on the ground are cut off and under deadly attack. Captain Pike is lured away from the others by a beautiful woman that is an aide to one of the high government officials. It is a trap, yet despite being much smaller than his opponent, Pike is able to defeat the Kaylar in a maneuver that Star Trek viewers will recognize. Once all is understood, the Rigellian application to join the Federation is denied, although what will happen next is not specified.  

 This story is very engaging, and in many ways quite realistic. Many of the episodes of all Star Trek series have as a premise that planets are eager to join the Federation. It was refreshing to read of an incident where there was strong and deadly opposition to their planet becoming a member of the Federation.

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Review of "Right Field Runt," by Joe Archibald

 Review of

Right Field Runt, by Joe Archibald ISBN 0825514185

Three out of five stars

Too much “You can’t do it” from a parent

 Joe Archibald is one of the best authors of juvenile sports fiction to ever write a word. Yet, in this book he pounds a position to the point where the reader is annoyed. Gary Conyer grows up loving baseball and his goal is to play professionally. Unfortunately, he already has two strikes against him in the eyes of his father. The first is his size, small as a youth with no prospect of ever coming near to being six feet in height. The second is his older brother, a star athlete all through school and a modest success in the lower level pros. Gary’s father constantly talks down his chances at success in baseball.  Furthermore, Gary’s head coach in the youth leagues also does not see any potential in him and uses him extremely sparingly.

 Fortunately, Gary has some things going for him, the first of which is an iron hard determination to succeed. The second is that he is very fleet afoot, capable of running down fly balls in the outfield that no other player could come close to. Finally, one of the assistant coaches that played in the minor leagues recognizes Gary’s potential and works with him.

 As you would expect, despite some initial setbacks, Gary eventually succeeds in making a career in baseball. Although he has to fight in both the literal and figurative sense. It is a good story, but enough already with the negative comments from his father.

Review of "Eat That Frog!," by Brian Tracy

 Review of

Eat That Frog!, by Brian Tracy ISBN 9781626569416

Five out of five stars

The key is selective procrastination

 Nearly every person is faced with more work than can possibly be done in a day, even when you stretch it out long into the night. As Tracy points out more than once and rather effectively, the key is not to avoid putting things off, but to properly prioritize your tasks and delay doing those things that are not immediately critical.

 The famous and nearly always true Pareto 80/20 rule is repeated many times. Since 80 percent of your gain will be a consequence of 20 percent of your work, it is foolish not to identify and act on the 20 percent.

 There is really nothing new or originally stated in this book. Yet, that is not a criticism or an argument against reading it. The reality is that good ideas and advice need to be hammered home over and over again if it is to ever be fully implemented. It reads quick and light, even though the content is valuable and worthy of repeating.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Review of "Shalako," DVD

 Review of

Shalako, DVD

Five out of five stars

Sean Connery as a different kind of hero

 Released in 1968, this movie appeared after Sean Connery had starred in five James Bond films and had supposedly retired from playing Bond. In this one, he plays a hero (Shalako) once again, this time a loner that is somewhat of a drifter. He is a man known and trusted by the Native Americans, the name Shalako is derived from their language.

 There is generally peace in the area between the Native Americans and the whites, but that peace is being disrupted. A large expedition of European royalty led by a group of American mercenaries has violated the treaty and crossed into the reservation. The leaders are arrogant men that consider all others, including the American hired hands, to be beneath them.

 Shalako meets with the leader of the Native Americans and promises to move the Europeans from the reservation. When they refuse, there is a battle and against his better judgement, Shalako decides to aid the Europeans. Part of the reason is that he is falling for a countess played by Brigitte Bardot.

 The action is tense and unforgiving, the terrain is rugged and spectacular. There seems to have been none of the action shot on a sound stage. Connery is superb in playing a different kind of hero, so well that even the most ardent of Bond fans will not lament that he is not playing the 007 role once again.


Review of "Give Us A Smile Beetle Bailey," by Mort Walker

 Review of

Give Us A Smile Beetle Bailey, by Mort Walker ISBN 0448170299

Five out of five stars

Continuous publication since 1950

 Debuting in 1950, Beetle Bailey has been in continuous syndication since then. While there have been a few changes in the cast over the years, it has remained surprisingly stable. The gags are also regularly recycled, albeit with minor changes. For example, there is the one where Sergeant Snorkel is hanging from a branch on the side of a cliff. How he gets there and how he gets out of the predicament is rarely explained. There are also the many instances where Snorkel beats Beetle into a disjointed pile of flesh. Beetle is always good as new in the next strip.

 In their own ways, most of the cast are inept, from General Halftrack to the voluptuous secretary Miss Buxley, to Snorkel and to Beetle himself. Beetle is always running close to first in the contest to be the laziest soldier of all time. He is almost completely lacking in ambition, only the threat of force will push him to do what he is assigned. Even then, he does not always complete his assigned tasks.

 This collection of cartoons contains instances of most of the recurring gags of the strip. Fans of the strip will immediately recognize the gags and appreciate them. An historical note is that Walker introduced Lieutenant  Flap in 1970. He was the first black character in the strip and Walker made him an officer rather than an enlisted. To Walker’s credit, Flap was portrayed as a black man of the late sixties, wearing colorful clothes when off duty and always speaking his mind.

 This book is an excellent summary of a strip with great longevity that is based on very few basic premises. Unlike other strips, there is no depth to these characters.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Review of "Eternal Warrior Yearbook Volume 1 Number 1," comic

 Review of

Eternal Warrior Yearbook Volume 1 Number 1, comic

Four out of five stars

A little history amidst the death and violence

The eternal warrior is a “man” that is incapable of being killed. The story opens with his leading an Aussie attack against the Turkish positions at Gallipoli in World War I. Despite being hit by many machine gun bullets, he survives to reach the machine gunners and kill them. The action then shifts to New York in 1993 where the same character is in bed with a woman and faces an armed attack. The eternal warrior quickly learns that his antagonist shares many of his characteristics, capable of being horrifically damaged with quick recovery.

 This establishes what is both the strength and weakness of the story. Since the hero seems incapable of being killed, there is never any real danger. The reader always knows that no matter what injuries he suffers, the hero will prevail. Therefore, the only possible way that there can be suspense is if he does battle with a similar creature. Mere humans are no contest.

 One feature that I really like is that since the Eternal Warrior is immortal and of course a warrior, there are flashbacks to battles down through history. This provides a brief history lesson for the reader. There is also one of the best quotes about war ever stated. It is by Titus Livius and it is, “War is just to those whom war is necessary.”

 Despite the limitations of the almost indestructible super soldier, this is an engaging story, for the Eternal Warrior is depicted as a thinking, feeling creature rather than a simple killing machine.

Monday, October 26, 2020

Review of "Batgirl Birds of Prey Rebirth 1," comic

 Review of

Batgirl Birds of Prey Rebirth 1, comic

Five out of five stars

A team reunited out of necessity

Batgirl is back in action, thwarting what appears to be a gang of routine criminal toughs in action. However, she is more interested in learning who their controller is, as it is obvious to her that these are routine thugs that need direction. She is shocked to learn that their controller goes by the name Oracle.

 That was the code word she used after she was shot and paralyzed by the Joker. When it is clear that the name of the controller is no coincidence or accident, Batgirl looks up Black Canary, her former partner in what once was the team Birds of Prey. Together they go searching for a deadly menace that knows all the facts, even the ones that the newly reformed team does not want exposed.

The action and dialog is fast and snappy, as their initial reluctance to reform the team is quickly dissipated. The background has been established for what will clearly be an interesting series of stories featuring two powerful female heroines.

Review of "Star Trek The Next Generation: Spirit in the Sky," comic

 Review of

Star Trek The Next Generation: Spirit in the Sky, comic

Three out of five stars

Weak premise poorly carried out

 The story opens with a strong premise, an unusual and unidentified energy wave hits the Enterprise at the same time they are encountering the ship of a previously unknown species. The two events are not related in the sense that one is causing the other. The wave momentarily winks out the power systems of the Enterprise, yet there is no lasting effect.

 At the same time, the crew of the Enterprise is preparing for a Christmas party, with even the Captain attending. It is going to be quite the social event, Deanna, Tasha and Dr. Crusher are all dressing up in steamy, sexy clothing.

 Some members of the command crew of the alien ship are invited aboard the Enterprise, they are searching for the energy source and there is an armed confrontation. All is eventually resolved without a major conflict when the true nature of the energy force is revealed in the form of a creature familiar to humans. It is pretty cheesy in nature and is truly a stretch for modern science fiction. The story is very weak and lacks realistic tension at the end.

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Review of "Underdog Summer Special, 1" comic

 Review of

Underdog Summer Special, 1 comic

Five out of five stars

Blasts from the past

 Like Superman, Underdog changed from his mild mannered persona of shoe-shine boy to his role as a superhero in a phone booth. However, when the change is complete, the phone booth explodes. Voiced by the unmistakable Wally Cox, Underdog was an understated, somewhat comic superhero where he was always mistaken for a flying frog. Which of course rhymed with Underdog.

 This comic captures the measured silliness of the character along with his love interest, Sweet Polly Purebred, a reporter that is also a dog. The semblance to the Superman/reporter Lois Lane pairing is of course not to be missed.

 A cartoon with a silly heart and sometimes childlike dialog, the Underdog series is a classic that will continue to entertain children for generations. This comic matches the show in images, dialog and plot. Nothing serious, a little absurd, but always fun.

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Review of "I Hate Fairyland #2," by Skottie Young and Jean-Francois Beaulieu

 Review of

I Hate Fairyland #2, by Skottie Young and Jean-Francois Beaulieu, comic

Five out of five stars

 After reading the first issue of the series, I went on a search for issue number 2 and found it. Although I am not generally a fan of the blood and gore genre of any material in print, this story was one I liked. It is a demented take off on the Alice in Wonderland, Dorothy in Oz sweet little girl story. Gertrude is a bard-bitten (literally and figuratively) girl with the body of a child but with over 20 years’ experience in her particular environment of fantasy.

 In the opening segment, Gertrude is drinking heavily and conversing with a severed and desiccated head. She is screaming at everyone and gets turned into a puffed up wart bag as a consequence. Her life is about to get worse when a witch is recruited to kill her. Appears to be a case of “takes one to do one.”

 The blood flows in streams as Gertrude continues to search for the key that will return her to her previous existence. Other heroines of adventure stories never engaged in actions such as these. So much gore will not doubt turn some readers off, but no one can argue that it truly drives home the point of parody of the innocent adventuress.

Review of "Choose to Win: Transform You Life One Simple Choice at a Time," by Tom Ziglar

 Review of

Choose to Win: Transform You Life One Simple Choice at a Time, by Tom Ziglar ISBN 9781400209545

Three out of five stars

Boilerplate motivational content

 There is only one aspect of this book that is different from many other self-help/motivational publications, and that is the regular inclusion of Christian religious references. If you are a person that follows that type of beacon, then this is the book for you. However, if you do not adhere to that specific metaphysical hypothesis, then the references are a tiring distraction.

 Adopting good habits and dropping the bad habits is of course good advice, but it is very well used and hardly unique. I have read other books by the author’s father Zig Ziglar and they just seem to have more pop and pep than this one does. It reached the point where it became predictable and a bit tedious to read.

 If you are in a place where there is a need for some self-help pep in your life, my suggestion is that you read one of Zig Ziglar’s books rather than this one.

Friday, October 23, 2020

Review of "I Hate Fairyland," comic by Skottie Young and Jean-Francois Beaulieu

 Review of

I Hate Fairyland, comic by Skottie Young and Jean-Francois Beaulieu

Five out of five stars

 In true “Alice in Wonderland” and “Through the Looking Glass” tradition, this story opens with young girl Gertrude dressed as a princess in her room and she is wishing to be transported to a world filled with magic, wonder and joy. Her wish comes true, well at least two out of three.

 She falls through a hole in the floor that is a hole in the sky in the other world and she lands with a bloody splat in the middle of the road. She is now in Fairyland and wants to go home. However, that is not an easy task, she is sent on a quest that begins on an orange-colored brick road.

 Unlike the lovely soft-spoken Alice and Dorothy of Oz fame, Gertrude is not soft and gentle. She flips off the moon before she takes a cannon and blows him into his “body” parts. The action is gross, a bit sadistic and a spoof of other entertainment venues. Most will recognize the parody of a major scene in Star Wars, “Return of the Jedi.”

 Although the humor is at base extremely crude, to appreciate it fully the reader needs to have some familiarity with the classic stories by Lewis Carroll. Which is about an odd a combination as one could come up with.

Review of "The Very Busy Spider," by Eric Carle

 Review of

The Very Busy Spider, by Eric Carle ISBN 0399211667

Five out of five stars

A lesson in toil until the task is done

 A female spider is taken by the wind where she is attached to a post in a farmyard. Once she is connected, she begins spinning her web. Even though several animals walk by and try to engage the spider in other actions, she remains focused on the task at hand until it is complete. Only when the web is finished does she stop her work and rest.

 This is a valuable lesson to children, for the spider will not eat until the web is complete and she can catch insects for food. The animals serve as distractors, but they are ignored, even though they are quite polite in their statements.

 One additional feature of this book is that the growing spider web is slightly elevated so the reader can run their hand across the pages and feel it. A very valuable addition to the sensory experience. This is a great book for children, and it is one that I would have read to my daughter when she was young.

Review of "Bored – Nothing to Do," by Peter Spier

 Review of

Bored – Nothing to Do, by Peter Spier, ISBN 0440843197

Five out of five stars

Formerly bored become extremely industrious

 When I was young and playing with other boys, we always had big ideas about making something. We would find a few odd parts and proclaim that our goal was to make a working model. Of course, we had no specific knowledge of how it worked or how to get all of the other parts.

 This story is about two brothers that are bored and looking for something interesting to do. They find an old wooden propellor in the shed and the light bulb goes off and they find a set of blueprints for a plane. Armed with this, they scour their farm for all the other parts they need, the wheels come off a baby buggy, the engine is from a small car, the television aerial, phone line, clothesline, fence, wood and bed sheets are all incorporated into the plane. Satisfying the fantasy of boys everywhere, the plane not only starts, but flies.

 However, the parents are extremely displeased when they discover all that is missing, and the boys do a flyby of the farm. Punishment is given and they must put all things back the way they were. It concludes with the boys once again lying on their beds expressing boredom.

 This is a great book, the expression of the fantasies of many boys in late elementary school. We never made anything that worked, but that never stopped us from expressing our goals.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Review of "Mattey Whaley: Boy of Early Williamsburg," by Martha Macdonald Boelt

 Review of

Mattey Whaley: Boy of Early Williamsburg, by Martha Macdonald Boelt

Four out of five stars

Fairly accurate historical fiction

 Mattey Whaley is a boy that is almost ten years old and the story is set in Williamsburg, Virginia in 1705. He lives with his widowed mother on a farm and they own slaves. Although this is not explicitly mentioned. Mattey and his mother Mary Page  were real people, although most of the other immediate characters were not. Mattey has been suffering from a bit of a fever, for it is September and the air temperature is still very warm.

 This is the story of one day in his life, which was fairly typical of boys in the class of landowning families. Mattey pines for his own musket and lessons on how to use it. Not unusual for the time, boys were taught how to use firearms and hunt at a very early age.

Mattey and his mother take a day off school and take the buggy into town so that they can get some medication for Mattey’s ailments. They pass public buildings and other structures, and Mary Page explains them to Mattey. A boat has come up the river bearing materials needed for the operations of the townspeople and Mattey is eager to see the unloading process.

 This book was written for the explicit purpose of explaining some of the facts regarding historical Williamsburg. At the time of the story, it was the capitol of Virginia, one of the largest cities in the state. The authors succeed in their goal, the creation of a story for young people that brings history to life in an understandable manner.

Review of "Bad Medicine Killing Moon Part 1," comic

 Review of

Bad Medicine Killing Moon Part 1, comic

Five out of five stars

Great background development

 The story opens with a woman being chased by a bipedal wolf creature that is shot and killed by a police officer during the first day of a full moon. Upon his death, the wolf reverts back to the form of an adult man. This triggers the actions of medical professionals expert in rare and unusual diseases. The victim is wearing the class ring of the high school in Deer Falls, Maine, so the team goes there in an attempt to identify him. It is a small town of about 400 people, but no one claims to know him.

 Oddly, nearly everyone tells them that no one leaves the town, raising an immediate red flag of interest. Since they are disease professionals, the members of the team begin taking blood samples of the Deer Falls population. The members of the team are eccentric at best and downright weird at the worst.

 All of this background development sets the stage for what is clearly going to be a dynamic story. It seems clear that there is a big local secret that is going to have to be discovered and dealt with. I am now on a search for the parts 2 and 3 of the story.

Review of "Passage to Cuba: An Up-close Look at the World’s Most Colorful Culture," by Cynthia Carris Alonso

 Review of

Passage to Cuba: An Up-close Look at the World’s Most Colorful Culture, by Cynthia Carris Alonso ISBN 9781632208484

Five out of five stars

A pictorial look at the best of Cuba

 While I have never been to Cuba, I understand that there are the good areas that are colorful and well maintained versus other areas that continue to decay. The American embargo that was somewhat off for a few years has been put back on, leading to limited interaction between the people of Cuba and the United States. That is unfortunate, for the embargo has never come near achieving what the proponents claim it will do.

The author is a professional photographer married to a Cuban, so she has near free rein to move between Cuba and the United States as well as fairly free movement around Cuba when she is there. Alonso also does not have to acquiesce to government assigned minders when moving and taking her photos.

 While photos tend to show people and places at their best, it is clear from these pictures that the Cuban culture is a dynamic one. The people remain full of life despite their hardships and shortages of basic goods. No photo essay is complete without several images of the cars, I once told a mechanic I know that I would travel to Cuba just to see the old American cars on the streets. He agreed with me.

 There are some photos of buildings that have decayed to the point of collapse and a few pictures of rural areas. However, most are of the urban areas photographed are lively and colorful, this fact needs to be kept in mind when reading this book.

Review of "The Very Lonely Firefly," by Eric Carle

 Review of

The Very Lonely Firefly, by Eric Carle ISBN 0399227741

Five out of five stars

Delightful tale about ending loneliness

 Eric Carle is a great author in creating stories that gently take the reader down a path to solving a fundamental problem of life. He uses well-known creatures and what they do in their lives to generate a lesson about persistence.

 A firefly is born, and it immediately begins searching for companions. It sees many different lights and flies to them looking for friends. However, the first several tries are false hopes as the light was not that of fellow fireflies. Undaunted, the firefly keeps trying until it encounters a flock of fireflies and it is no longer lonely.

 Fireflies, or what we know in Iowa as “lightning bugs,” are a captivating creature. When they are at their peak in the summer it is a joy to sit and watch them flashing by the hundreds. With the natural attraction that they have for children, this is a book that will interest them. It also contains a simple lesson about dealing with and solving the problem of loneliness.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Review of "B. P. R. D. Hell On Earth, Lake of Fire," by Mike Mignola et. al.

 Review of

B. P. R. D. Hell On Earth, Lake of Fire, by Mike Mignola et. al. ISBN 9781616554026

Five out of five stars

An odd and largely unknown apocalypse

 Something has happened to cause animals to wildly mutate into powerful and extremely vicious creatures. Humans can also be affected. Along with this, large sections of the world have gone dark, seemingly completely wiped out. For example, it is stated that Great Britain is a total loss. However, some cities in the United States are anomalies, first and foremost is New York City. Every attempt to send ships or planes into that area leads to massive electronic disruption and their total loss.

 While there are shortages, in the areas not directly affected, society and the technology still seems to work. There are still television broadcasts and other services still exist. For example, the city police force responds when there is a dangerous mutant creature on the loose and the military is still capable of mounting operations. There is a plan to send small teams with low technology into New York in an attempt to determine the precise circumstances. There is the hint that the difficulties were anticipated.

  As one would expect in such circumstances, new religions that are more in tune with the new reality have been formed and as one would also expect, they clash with the older ones. Within this complex set of events, there is a focus on a young woman that wanders with her dog, revisiting the places of her youth.

 There is an enormous amount of action compressed into this graphic novel, it is exciting, entertaining and I will be acquiring other issues so that I can learn the background to this one and follow the plot as the teams prepare to enter the unknown in the New York City area.

Review of "Grendel God and The Devil, number 10"

 Review of

Grendel God and The Devil, number 10

Four out of five stars

More than one major villain with heroes that are questionable

 This was the first in the Grendel series that I read, and I had to read it twice for it to make any sense. Which is actually a complement, for if after nine issues, it is easy to figure out issue ten, there is not enough depth to the story.

 The danger could not have been greater, Pope Innocent XLII is planning on blowing up the sun. He claims to be a man of God, but he is just another madman super villain and the main hero is trying to stop him. There is also a super vampire on the loose, he essentially has superpowers, far beyond those generally assigned to vampires.

 The character that stops the Pope from executing his plan is a “person” that quotes from songs and scripture while he is executing his actions of mayhem and destruction. Many people are turned into the soldiers of a controllable army of vampires and others die for their beliefs while others just die as they get in the way.

 The setting is that of a society with a very high level of technology, when the super vampire falls from a building, it is stated as being a free fall of over a kilometer. Overall, it is a complex story set within a modern society that is a bit of a dystopia. There are very wealthy people, but most live in seedy tenements. Overall, this is one of the most complex stories I have ever read in comic form.

Review of "Cold Blooded Chameleon Commandos No. 2" comic

 Review of

Cold Blooded Chameleon Commandos No. 2 comic

Three out of five stars

Violence and bloodshed abounds

 While there are some similarities between these characters and the Mutant Ninja Turtles, there is a significant difference in the level of brutal violence. In this comic, a helpless villain is shot at point blank and multiple enemies are skewered on the same sword. The plot is ambling, although there is the requisite super villain determined to take over as much as possible. At times, the reader is unsure as to what the track is.

 There are a few puns that are very weak and other attempts at humor that largely fail. I purchased this comic at a used bookstore for I had never seen these characters before. Unlike other such experiences, I will not be looking for other issues in the series.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Review of "How Joe the Bear and Sam the Mouse Got Together," by Beatrice Schenk De Regniers

 Review of

How Joe the Bear and Sam the Mouse Got Together, by Beatrice Schenk De Regniers

Five out of five stars

Persistent friendship despite differences

 Joe the bear is of course large, and Sam is relatively very small. When they greet each other, one must look high up and the other way down. They want to keep each other’s companionship, so they search for things that they can do together. Unfortunately, even though they find things that they like to do, in all cases they want to do the tasks in a different and incompatible manner.

 Finally, they discover that there is something that they can do together and that is eating ice cream at three o’clock. The book closes with the two eating their ice cream, Joe with very large glasses and Sam with small ones more his size.

 This is a delightful book of differences and how they can be resolved. Friends can approach and do things differently and still find something to cement the companionship. The text is simple and the sentences are short.

Review of "Groo Play of the Gods," by Sergio Aragones, comic

 Review of

Groo Play of the Gods, by Sergio Aragones, comic

Five out of five stars

A satire on the age of European exploration

 The Groo character is of course the ultimate in incompetence and a super jinx to all that surrounds him. In this case, he somehow manages to be on a ship that has left Europe and is going to recently discovered lands in order to claim them in the name of the queen. As part of that claim, the “savages” are to be converted to the one true religion, where there is only one true god (Diothos) and all others are false. Furthermore, there is a significant thirst for gold among many of the crew members. Groo is primarily interested in food.

 There is a heaven where all the gods, including Diothos and all others worshiped as gods reside. These are not the vengeful and flighty gods of mythology and the western religions; in fact, they dismiss much of what is said and done supposedly on their behalf. Such statements by the gods is refreshing, for all thinking people have to wonder at some point what a god would think of brutal things being done in their name.

 This is satire at its best and is in fact much more historically accurate that some of the documents used to justify European control of other lands. The primary motives were always political and economic power, with little in the way of genuinely trying to help and understand the people the Europeans encountered.

Review of "All Stars of the Outfield," by Milton J. Shapiro

 Review of

All Stars of the Outfield, by Milton J. Shapiro ISBN 0671322664

Four out of five stars

Room for disagreement, but not much

 Any selection of the greatest baseball players at each position is always subject to dispute. Nevertheless, the selections here cannot be argued with in general, only their relative positioning. The players are put into four categories: the big three, the second team, odd man out and yesterday’s trio. Every single player can arguably be declared a member of the best three-man outfield of all time.  

 The book was published in 1970, so there is reason to justify the inclusion of more modern platers. The members of the big three are Joe DiMaggio, Willie Mays and Stan Musial. Members of the second team are Hank Aaron, Mickey Mantle and Ted Williams. Note that Aaron and Mays were still active at the time of publication. The odd man out is Mel Ott and the players in yesterday’s trio are Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth and Tris Speaker.

 Rather than engage in a debate regarding inclusion and ranking, the best thing to do is to simply read and enjoy the short biographies of the players. While it is now a bit dated, it is still fun to read about the exploits of some of the best players to ever cover the outfield grass.

Review of "Amish Odyssey," by Bill Coleman

 Review of

Amish Odyssey, by Bill Coleman ISBN 0912383496

Five out of five stars

Chronicle of a simple life

 In his travels carrying a camera, Coleman encountered a remote valley in Pennsylvania populated by Old Order Amish. At first, he was treated with the normal suspicion assigned to an outsider, but over a period of years he was trusted to the point where they allowed him to chronicle their lives. Being of the Old Order, very little in the way of modernity is a part of their lives.

 The photos are of course first rate, clearly carefully selected from a large number. While their lives are simple and there are limits on what they are allowed to do, it is clear that they enjoy life. The most amusing captions are when a group of boys are playing Frisbee with their hats. One of the most touching moments is when Coleman encounters a barefoot young boy standing in the middle of the road, seemingly doing nothing. However, after a short time a herd of cattle crossed the road, walking right beside him. All present doing what is expected of them.

 As the world continues to rapidly change, it is uncertain how long such groups can remain in adherence to the Old Order. Fortunately, this book will provide a permanent record of much of their way of life.

Monday, October 19, 2020

Review of "U. S. War Machine No. 1," comic

 Review of

U. S. War Machine No. 1, comic

Four out of five stars

Stark makes a bold move, problem ensues

 This comic opens with Tony Stark, the possessor of the most advanced weapons technology, making an announcement that he will be keeping the most powerful technology of his weapons in house and will no longer be selling it to governments. The reaction of the press is what you would expect of people that cover business, at first, they laugh and then ask questions about the reaction of stockholders and whether there will be layoffs at the Stark companies. This includes the technology known as War Machine.

 However, things don’t go according to plan, when a sophisticated terrorist group captures some weapons, War Machine thwarts them in a very bloody battle. It is as if the terrorists want the War Machine to react violently.

 This is not a traditional comic where the violence is muted. There is an “Explicit Content” warning on the front cover, and it is justified. Violent and gory deaths are depicted with no attempt to tone down the bloodshed. This story sets the stage for what could be many different story threads regarding what Stark will do in the future.

Review of "Dorothy Dixon Wins Her Wings," by Dorothy Wayne

 Review of

Dorothy Dixon Wins Her Wings, by Dorothy Wayne

Five out of five stars

A feisty, fighting heroine

 This is the first Dorothy Dixon adventure book that I have read, and I was impressed. There were many book series that featured a female character, but they tend to be soft adventures in that there is little real danger and not much in the way of physical confrontations. Published in 1933, this story was a surprise in that it lacks those girly features, something almost nonexistent in that time frame.

 Dorothy turns out to be a very instinctive pilot as she goes through flight training from a skilled pilot her age. Even though he is somewhat of a male love interest, it is very much downplayed. There is one scene where Dorothy is in a physical confrontation with a very large man that is a member of a dangerous criminal gang. Rather than performing a fluttery backing down, she goes toe-to-toe with him, using her knowledge of martial arts to give as good as she gets.

 Dorothy’s speech when interacting with her flight instructor is also not that of the era of publication. When there is a hint of condescension, she snaps back with authority and vigor. Her father provides a bit of protectiveness, but it is muted as well, allowing Dorothy to be her adventurous self.

 In an age when women as the hero of an adventure were usually kept in the feminine roles of the time, this book goes out of those bounds and that makes it a story that has not aged as much as the others.

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Review of "Faith #1" comic

 Review of

Faith #1 comic

Five out of five stars

A new size of super heroine

 This comic introduces a new super heroine (Faith), one that packs both superpowers and significant size. She is clearly meant to appeal to girls that have bodies larger than what is considered the ideal. Her dialogue and relationship interactions are also very female in nature. She tries to balance the super heroine persona with that of just trying to be a regular woman in a complex culture. Her job is that of a writer for an online publication, so it is relatively easier for her to keep her personal life from that of saving the world.

 Since it clearly fills a specific niche market, this is a comic that will have a lot of appeal to certain groups. However, like most characters that have specific physical characteristics, Faith may not appeal to other groups. Which would be unfortunate, for it would be an educational experience for them.

Friday, October 16, 2020

Review of "Incognito Number One," by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips

 Review of

Incognito Number One, by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips

Five out of five stars

A tough antihero is presented

 The opening of this story has two seemingly incongruous parts. In the first two pages a masked man drops into an alley to rescue a woman being attacked by three men. He deals with them rather quickly and efficiently and then tells her to get lost and forget about him. There is an immediate switch to a clean cut man wearing a tie in an office and then attending a holiday party where he pulls a dramatic con on a female co-worker.

 This sets some of the context for what is a man with an extremely violent past that is somehow in a program where he is trying to just be another office salaryman in a world that is generally alien to him. There is the mention of drugs and he has some significant powers of strength and at least partial flight. He was one of a pair of twins that were the subjects of the traditional mad scientist with wild hair, bug eyes and a nasty, toothy grin.  

 While most of the contextual background of the main character has been established, there are still a few unknowns to be fleshed out. Yet, there is enough to pique the interest of the reader in what is another character in the dark, antihero genre.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Review of "The Seeds: Volume 1," by David Aja and Ann Nocenti

 Review of

The Seeds: Volume 1, by David Aja and Ann Nocenti

Five out of five stars

The despair of slow planet destruction

 This comic is the first in another series based on the Earth in rapid decay. Nearly all environmental factors are near or explicitly toxic. This is summed up by the caption showing a speaker with the text, “air quality alert, acid snow, zone b toxic, weaponized fallout, stay indoors.”

 Nearly everything is depicted as grungy and the expressions of any form of human happiness are almost totally absent. There is a militarized brick wall with razor wire on top that separates two zones. In this issue, there is no significant explanation of the reason for the separation.

Creatures such as bees and birds are also included expressing sentient thoughts and there is mention of a group that may be space aliens deliberately driving at least some of the destruction. Some of the people wear environmental isolation suits.

 Many independent comics are based on an Earth where humans exist in a brutal environment where most of the joy of living has been extracted. This is one of the darkest, for the background has been set where it is difficult to see where there could be anything close to a “happy ending.”

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Review of "Streamlined," by John Kaufmann

 Review of

Streamlined, by John Kaufmann ISBN 0690005652

Five out of five stars

Proof that learning science can be fun

 The fundamental physical principle of streamlining is one that appears throughout nature and is an essential principle of many different types of engineering. From motor vehicles to ships to buildings designed to resist strong winds, making the vehicle streamlined is essential.

 This book is an excellent basic primer on this topic. It starts with how and why many creatures in nature have streamlined shapes and the advantages it gives them. From this, the reader is introduced to simple, inexpensive experiments that can be done that demonstrate the effectiveness of streamlining. Those experiments can be done at home in a bathtub or in a classroom with a tib of water.

 This book is an existence proof that learning science can be entertaining.

Review of "Bedtime Stories for Lovers," by Joan Elizabeth Lloyd

 Review of

Bedtime Stories for Lovers, by Joan Elizabeth Lloyd ISBN 0446671398

Four out of five stars

Short bedtime story format erotica

 The standard bedtime story is only a few pages long with a happy ending to go to sleep to. This book contains a series of them, only in this case the action is explicitly for adults only. With only a few pages to work with and some needed to set the appropriate context and the need to reach the specific type of happy ending, there is little ink for preambles.

 The action is very explicit, worthy of the most detailed skin magazine columns. These stories will serve to get only the most rapid response physiologies energized for action. Nevertheless, it can serve as a “bedtime” primer for all adult couples.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Review of "The Goddamned: Before the Flood, issue three" comic

 Review of

The Goddamned: Before the Flood, issue three comic

Four out of five stars

Loosely based on the early chapters of the Christian Old Testament, it starts with Adam and Eve looking out over a natural, bright green paradise. However, they talk to each other like a couple that have grown to hate the very sight and sound of each other.

 There is an immediate shift to a world that is dark, sinister and extremely brutal. Babies, “good and fresh” are for sale on open markets. People are brutalized and kept in slave pens, with one reserved for the children. Human bodies are fed to the captured carnivorous animals and Cain is aiding a woman in looking for her son Lodo that has been imprisoned in a camp run by a vicious gang.

 As someone that has read the Christian Old Testament, this comic more accurately portrays the events depicted in that document. Life is brutal, slavery is ubiquitous, and death can appear on a whim and in spite of prayer.

 This is the first issue in this series that I read. It piqued my curiosity and further interest, so now I am looking for the other issues in the series.  

Review of "An American Plague," by Jim Murphy

 Review of

An American Plague, by Jim Murphy ISBN 0395776082

Five out of five stars

A reminder of the grisly cycles

 The year 2020 has been memorable for the return of the pandemic. Something largely predicted in the last paragraph of this book. People that study infectious diseases and public health understand that mass outbreaks of fatal diseases have been part of the human condition since humans gathered together into groups. Literature from science fiction to fact has stated many times that humans have been due for another pandemic for some time due to the mass and rapid modern travel. Even though modern science quickly identified the causative agent and engaged in aggressive treatment and prevention, the corona virus has proven deadly on a mass scale.

This book is about an outbreak of yellow fever in Philadelphia in 1793, when that city was the temporary capital of the United States. Those with the means chose to flee the city, that included President Washington and nearly all the rest of the national government.

With very little known about the causative agents of the disease, some of the treatments were bizarre and extreme. As was the case in other plague events, this outbreak ran its course until cold weather and simply went down as another mini pandemic experienced by the human race. However, during that time there was little humans could do or even knew what to do.

 One of the saddest aspects of this story was how the black population of Philadelphia reacted to the plague and was treated when it was over. While many if not most of the white caregivers fled the city, the black population largely stayed and did what they could to minimize the suffering. Many of the black caregivers became ill and some died. Yet, when it was over, their blackness had not changed, both in the literal and figurative senses. Discrimination was put on hold out of necessity, only to return post crisis.

 This is a great book about what was really only a historical quirk, for this was only one of several mini pandemics to strike the United States over the first two centuries of the country. Even though it has been almost 2.5 centuries since this plague struck, there are many aspects of it that have reappeared in the modern Corona virus pandemic.

Review of "The How and Why Wonder Book of Light and Color," by Harold Joseph Highland

 Review of

The How and Why Wonder Book of Light and Color, by Harold Joseph Highland

Three out of five stars

 When reading this book, I was puzzled by some of the language used, for it simply did not have the expressions and tones of a physicist. For example, on page 35 there is the sentence, “Actually, no one today is certain exactly what light is.” This book was published in 1963 and at the time, all the characteristics of light were well known. The wave-particle duality was by then well-established scientific fact. Furthermore, physicists do not talk like that. When I investigated, I learned that the author is in fact the chair of a department of business administration and not billed as a scientist.

 I found this rather odd, this is a book about science, so it should have been written by someone well versed in the sciences. There are other phrasings that are questionable, for example the last sentence of the book is “What is light?” One can ask this question in the metaphysical sense, but that should not be a topic in an introductory book.

Monday, October 12, 2020

Review of "Battle Beasts #1," IDW comics

 Review of

Battle Beasts #1, IDW comics

Five out of five stars

 The three main characters of this opening issue are talented warriors that have banded together after what is stated as earlier periods of relationship difficulties. It took them some time before they reached the point of mutual trust. Given that they are all capable warriors, there is the hint of barely resolved initial conflict.

 All three are sentient man-beasts with near-human bodies. One has the head and talons of an eagle and can fly; another has an extremely powerful body with the head and tusks of a walrus. One of the tusks is broken off. The third has the head and horns of a bighorn sheep.

 The story opens with them camped and eating a meal when they are suddenly attacked by a large number of assorted warrior creatures. Seemingly hopelessly outnumbered, the trio manages to fight them off until the attackers mysteriously depart. There is the mention of a search for what are called “dread weapons.”

 The story then takes a dramatic change of location to Earth, where a woman rushes into a research facility and claims to have translated the inscription on alien orbs. A team of scientists has been trying everything they could think of to crack them open but has failed. At first, they do not take the woman seriously, but when she utters the “magic words” they open.

 Yet, there are times when success is of dubious value, for the consequences are that powerful alien creatures arrive and start laying down a path of destruction. The two seemingly disparate threads are connected.

 While many hints at background and purpose are put down, none are explained in detail. Yet, it is clear to the reader that a solid foundation for an epic tale has been set, leading to a desire to read the subsequent issues.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Review of "Sherlock Holmes: Dressed to Kill," starring Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce DVD

 Review of

Sherlock Holmes: Dressed to Kill, starring Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce DVD

Five out of five stars

Rathbone and Bruce are the best to ever play the roles

 The results of a search engine search were that 45 actors have played Sherlock Holmes in movies. Holmes is the character that has been portrayed most often in acting productions. There is no doubt in my mind that Basil Rathbone is the best to ever play the role on screen. Nigel Bruce also captures the relatively slow witted Doctor Watson. Both men simply exude the man of London persona of the late nineteenth century.

 In this adventure, a man has been convicted of stealing plates that can be used to print money that would be indistinguishable from the genuine items, throwing the entire British economy into chaos. He managed to hide the plates before being captured and he is now making simple music boxes in prison. Since the stolen plates have never been recovered, there is a great deal of interest in the criminal’s actions.

 Being a clever man very good with his hands, the criminal manages to construct a complex code describing the location of the plates for his confederates on the outside and it is up to Holmes to decipher the code and track down the criminals as well as recover the plates. The code is embedded in a set of simple music boxes. Of course, he succeeds in the brilliant way of Holmes, managing to connect the appropriate dots in constructing a path to the solution.

 Although Edgar Allan Poe is credited with the creation of the detective story, it was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of the Sherlock Holmes character, that truly made it the literary staple that it has become. No character is more popular than Holmes and, in this movie, Rathbone makes him real, albeit placed in the proper time frame.